Highlights from the Apple Keynote

If you'd like to know what Apple said and announced today in one succinct list, look no further. Looks like a lot of great improvements coming to all four platforms. 

watchOS 3

  • 7X faster
  • Apps launch instantly, info is updated in the background
  • Swipe from left to right to switch watch faces
  • New watch faces - Simplicity and Activity
  • Activity sharing with other watch users
  • New app: Breathe - helps with breathing exercises to combat stress
  • Free upgrade in the Fall

tvOS

  • Sling TV app announced today
  • New Apple TV Remote app, also functions as a controller
  • Siri on TV: search by topics now (i.e. "Find high school comedies from the 80's)
  • Also: "Search YouTube for ---" 
  • Launch apps for Live TV: "Watch ESPN 2"
  • Install apps with Siri as well: "Install MLB app"
  • Single sign-on for app authorization to watch TV
  • Dark mode

macOS

  • Renamed from Mac OS X
  • New version named macOS Sierra
  • Auto Unlock - authenticate from you Apple Watch
  • Universal Clipboard - images, video, text pasted from your iOS device
  • iCloud Drive - all your files available everywhere
  • Optimized Storage - older files compressed to free up space on your Mac
  • Apple Pay - now on the web, securely authorize using Touch ID on your iPhone
  • Tabs - in multiple-windowed apps like Maps
  • Picture-in-Picture - video inlay on top of apps
  • Siri - find files, follow-up commands, play music, search the web, message
  • Available in the Fall as a free upgrade

iOS 10

  • Biggest iOS release ever
  • User Experience: redesigned lock screen with 3D Touch support
  • Clear All with 3D Touch (finally!)
  • Control Center also redesigned
  • Slide from the right to access Camera instantly, slide left for Widgets
  • More info on 3D Touch app widgets
  • Siri API for developers - devs can now write apps for Siri
  • QuickType - now with Siri intelligence 
  • Photos - advanced computer vision on the phone such as facial recognition
  • Advances AI to analyze content of photos, on the device
  • Maps - new design, open to developers
  • Music - all new Apple Music app designed from the ground up
  • News - all new design, clear sections
  • HomeKit - new app called Home, control your home, integrated with Siri
  • Phone - voicemail transcripts 
  • VoIP API so Slack, Facebook, Skype can be taken like regular phone calls
  • Messages - rich links, play videos right inline, bigger emojis, bubble effects

What's in Your Mac's MenuBar?

A MenuBar is that bar at the top of your Mac's screen. Sometimes, apps like to stick shortcuts and helpful tools in the MenuBar to help you access features faster or see relevant information at a glance. It's super-Mac-nerdy, but here's a look at some apps and utilities that I'm using in my Mac's menubar.

First off, a disclaimer. My Mac's MenuBar never looks like this. This is far too cluttered and long for me, so I use the excellent Bartender 2 to make my MenuBar look like this:

Bartender allows me to have a pullout "drawer" with a keyboard shortcut so I can have easy access to some of my apps and utilities without having to have my entire MenuBar cluttered.

F.lux. First from left to right is F.lux, a free utility that changes the temperature of your Mac's screen, a lot like the new Night Shift feature for iOS 9.3 which just shipped last week. Basically, it eases strain on your eyes at night time by removing the blue light that's emitted from the screen. Blue light is the light that signals your brain to wake up in the morning, and the orange-red sunlight is the light that signals your brain to tell you that the day is done. Theoretically, F.lux should help you sleep better if you do lots of late-night work. I know Night Shift on iOS has helped me sleep better for sure.  

Screens. Screens in popular VNC client that I use to access  several computers and work remotely on them from my main Mac or iPad. Screens is excellent at this, and let's you connect remotely to those computers in a fast and easy way with great design on the app. I do lots of video compression that takes a long time sometimes and it's nice to be able to do that on another computer that I don't have physical access to. If you need to use multiple computers, Screens is the way to go. 

StatsBar. This is a cool little app that allows you to see a myriad of into at a glance. I can see my machine's memory, disk usage, and CPU usage all in one little pane, just like a pretty version of Activity Monitor. Similar apps like Menumeters do the same thing, but I've found Statsbar to be the one I stuck with. 

Adobe. Adobe's icon is pretty useful, but only when you need to update your apps in your Creative Cloud. 

Transporter. I have a File Transporter sitting on my desk - it's basically like your own private Dropbox for syncing files. 

Unclutter. This is a neat utility where it lives like a drawer coming from the top of your screen. Simply go up to the top of your screen and scroll down with two fingers on your trackpad like you're scrolling down an internet page, and you are presented with a helpful drawer divided into three sections: Pinned Files, Clipboard History, and Notes. Very helpful in switching between apps as well. 

Droplr. In the battle between file sharing and URL shorteners, Droplr is the king. It won out over CloudApp for me because of its feature set. I've paid for the premium plan for over a year now and love it. I pay $99/year and can have uploads up to 2GB in size, have custom domain branding and a custom downloads page. If you find yourself sharing big files on a regular basis and needing to share them with others, Droplr is for you. 

Copied. Not pictured (because I don't have it as an icon in the menubar) is Copied, a very helpful utility that functions a lot like Droplr except just for text and images. Their iOS apps are also pretty great. 

1Password. Couldn't live without this password manager. I manage a bunch of websites for people, and I have all of my sensitive information and passwords locked inside of 1Password. I've never found anything comparable, and I would highly recommend it. 

ItsyCal. This is an older calendar utility - but I just love it. Lots of people swear by Fantastical, but IstyCal works great for me. 

Dropbox. The linchpin of my entire operation. Couldn't do work without it. 

NoSleep. There was a time when I hooked my 13-inch Macbook up to an external monitor, and NoSleep helped me keep my Mac on while the lid was shut. Simple and free. 

System Icons. The rest of the icons in my menubar are system-level ones that I keep handy to get info or make changes quickly. I keep AirPlay there because I'm usually always listening to podcasts or music through my Bose Soundlink, as well connecting to Apple TVs here at the church building to present in classes and such. I keep the Keyboard icon there because I'm so often looking for special characters. Sound is self-explanatory. I still use Time Machine as a secondary "easy" backup but still make images of my entire computer every month using SuperDuper. I keep Bluetooth up there to keep connected to my Apple Wireless keyboard that I love typing on as well as Bluetooth speakers. I keep my Clock on military time because, well, that's the only way a sane person would do it. 

So I hope this has helped - I hope you'll share your MenuBar with me as well and have it featured here on the site. Cheers!

 

The Headphone Enigma

Recently I've been on a quest for the perfect headphones. I've been traveling a little bit more in the last year and didn't want to spring $300+ for a stereo system in my car, and I've realized that I could just headphones and be just fine and be able to use them in my office as well. As a minister, I'm sure that some of you would like to know my thoughts and opinions on this as you may be in the market for some new headphones as well. My results were...surpising.

I wanted wireless headphones, ones that connected to my iPhone (and othe devices) via Bluetooth. And as it turns out, wireless headphones aren't cheap.

For the longest time, I've used the Apple earbuds as my primary way of listening to my music and podcasts. I don't need lots of bass, but I do sometimes listen to heavy bass music like chiptune and techno music. 80% of the time though, I'm listening to spoken-word podcasts and sermons. So my needs aren't too dynamic.

The first pair I tried was the Beats Powerbeats 2, the wireless version. I found the quality of the hardware to be outstanding. The over-the-ear pieces give you a firm anchor for your earbuds - once set correctly, they're not going anywhere. However, I found wearing sunglasses painful when worn long-term. Because of the over-the-ear design, sunglasses or even regular glasses were a problem. You can mold and move the earpeices around, but it still creates a bump that you can't get over with glasses. As someone who wears sunglasses and headphones while driving, I could tell quickly that these weren't going to work for me.

The sound quality on the Powerbeats 2 was pretty great - on par with my standard Apple Earpods to which I have set the sound quality bar (more on that in a bit). Bass was deep, treble was just as it should be. I could switch seamlessly from a spoken-word podcast to music with deep bass.

The next headphones I tried were the wireless Jaybird Bluebuds X. These had come reccomended by many sources, namely my brother-in-law who is much more experienced with headphones than I am, and MKBHD on Youtube, whom I trust with virtually any product reccommendation. So I had high hopes for these earbuds.

I was dissappointed, though. They were uncomfortable and did not have the greatest sound. Music sounded good but a bit tinny. Podcast voices weren't as rich as they should have sounded. The system with which Jaybird wants you to wear the headphones was uncomfortable in that there was a plastic/silicone piece that was supposed to fit inside your ear. Mine didn't. At least not very well. Granted, I've never had good luck with earpieces of any type, so it may just be me. But I could have gotten used to that if the sound was outstanding - which it wasn't.

My last pair of headphones I tried were the Bose QuietComfort 20i's, which I actually got by happy accident. Long story short, I've made a new tech friend here at Graymere who bought me a set. Wonderful, I know. Bless him.

The QC20i's aren't wireless, but at this point I was willing to try anything, especially for a free set of headphones. I found that out of the whole bunch, the Bose earbuds were defintely the most comfortable. No over-the-earpiece and the inner silicone piece was much more comfortable than that of the Jaybirds Bluebuds X.

The best part about the Bose earbuds was the noise cancelling. Although the tiny little block that's attached to the base of the connecting jack is a bit cumbersome, it allows you to switch on the powered headphones and then go to another level with noise cancelling, which is superb. Can't wait to use this on a plane when I head to Texas in August and mowing my yard with it.

The sound quality, as stated before is pretty great. Podcast voices sound full and rich and music is full with just enough treble to make other sounds pop. I'll be keeping these for two reasons: 1) Because they're good for certain purposes, but not all, and 2) they were a gift from a friend.

So what's my conclusion? What headphones do I reccommend?

I'll stick with my Apple Earpods. Here's why.

I don't know if my ears are just used to the sound or what, but they are really the best headphones out there, not just for the iPhone, but for any listening on any device. They are comfortable (sometimes I forget they're in my ears), light, and most importantly, they produce great sound. I'm still perplexed that Apple ships these standard headphones and they are the best out of all the headphones I've tried. They're wired, which makes me want to try these out just for kicks, but they really are, in my opinion, the best earbuds you can buy right now. And they're only $30 - if you didn't already have a set lying around that came with your iDevice.

So like it or not, sometimes the cheapest is the best. After all the reading and researching and trying out, I found that the best headphones were the ones I already had.

As A Minister: Why You Should Care About What Apple Said This Week

Monday in San Francisco, Apple kicked off WWDC, their Worldwide Developers Conference. As a minister, why should you care about such things? I'll give you few reasons why. 

The iPad is Changing. There may be some new products on the horizon, i.e. the rumored 12-inch iPad Pro, but even without that announcement yesterday (Apple has since stopped making major product announcements at WWDC and stuck to developer stuff), the iPad is changing. 

There was some stuff demoed that we will see with iOS 9 in the Fall that is amazing - it's what the iPad should have been all along. If you're a minister and you use the iPad on a daily basis, you're going to be impressed with what Apple is doing. 

Two of the biggest things on the iPad - working with text and multitasking - have been completely redone. Now you can have two apps running side-by-side in tandem and resize the windows. This isn't a revolutionary thing - Samsung has been doing it with tablets and even phones for a while now - but it's wonderful to have on the iPad. Now you can have two Bible apps open at the same time, or an internet site open in Safari on the left and a writing app on the right. Pretty sweet stuff. 

The other is text selection. We preachers live in text. At least I do. And Apple has designed an intuitive form of text selection that nearly looks like a trackpad. You can depress two fingers on the keyboard and zip around to highlight text and move your cursor. Very cool. Much faster than dragging your finger in just the right spot and getting frustrated when it goes below the line you wanted it to. 

The Mac isn't changing. I say that because Yosemite was a complete redesign of OSX, and yes, it has more bugs than an abandoned hotel. But this release, named OSX El Capitan (named for a rock face in Yosemite National Park...Leopard > Snow Leopard, Lion > Mountain Lion, Yosemite > El Capitan). El Capitan is focusing on performance and stablity, so in effect, Apple is slowing down the on new features in order to make the current ones work much better. 

Search on iOS is getting better. Universal search on iOS is going to be much better thanks to deeper integration. What does this mean? It means you can find more stuff that you need quicker. Siri will be lots more useful, a la Google Now on Android devices. Siri is more intelligent too - you can say "Show me photos from Florida last October" and it can fetch those photos, provided you have them synced in the new Photos app. 

The new Notes app. 

The new Notes app. 

Notes I can now finally recommend. The built-in Notes is an app that lots of ministers I know use a lot just to jot down things they come across. Notes wasn't very functional or useful in my opinio. You couldn't style text or insert pictures. Now you can. Not only that, the app has been redesigned for all platforms - iPhone, iPad, and the Mac. And it syncs via iCloud so you don't have to worry about it. I still think there are better note-taking apps for your phone and tablet - Drafts, Editorial, and Simplenote to name a few - but Apple is really making strides with the app that 75% of their users use because it's just there

This was only a few things that Apple announced of many, but these things will continue to improve my experience on iOS and the Mac and I know as ministers it will benefit you as well. 

Review: The New Macbook, and Why It Might Be The Perfect Tool for Ministers (In Two Years)

I've recently had a chance to spend some time with one of Apple's new Macbooks. That's right, just Macbook. No Macbook Air, no Macbook Pro. Just Macbook

It's clear that Apple is pushing the envelope and showing us the future when it comes to this new machine. After spending some time with it, I could say that it might be the perfect tool for any minister of any type. 

First off, the specs. The new Macbook sports a 12-inch display that has 2304 x 1440 resolution at 226 pixels per inch. Basically that means it's Retina quality, meaning that from a standard viewing distance, you won't be able to distinguish any individual pixels. The screen, as you would expect on any Apple product, is fantastic. Colors are bright and there is no ghosting or glitching that you might see with cheaper panels. 

The machine does not have any type of optical (CD/DVD) drive. This is nothing new, since Apple stopped putting optical drives on their machines over 5 years ago. 

What is new is the ports, or lack thereof. There are only two ports - a reversible USB-C (think Lightning connector, but slightly bigger) and a headphone jack. That's it. More on that in a minute. 

There are only two configurations offered, both of which have only 8GB of RAM included. There is a 1.1 GHz option, and a slightly faster 1.2 GHz model. I was only able to test the 1.1 GHz model, and I did not notice any lagging or sputtering, especially when scrolling fast on a big website with lots of images. It was actually pretty impressive. In the new Photos app, scrolling fast was smooth as silk. I couldn't get the machine to actually stutter at all until I had 8 tabs open in Safari, all playing HD Youtube videos. At only 1.1 GHz (I currently use a 2.4 GHz Macbook Pro) I fully expected it to stutter and slow down, but it was pretty resilient in all of my tests. And coming from a machine on which I've had 8GB of RAM for the last two years and work heavily in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Final Cut, the 8GB is very acceptable, especially if you're not doing those intensive processes. 

The 1.2 GHz model that's $500 more doesn't just give you an extra bump in power, but it gives you twice the storage with a 512GB SSD. Apple claims that the new SSDs have twice the speed, and I wouldn't doubt it. Given my tests with BlackMagic Disk Speed Test, I'd say they were correct. Which brings me to an interesting point: we may look at the processor speed and say, "Wow, that is low. Not enough power for me." But unless you're working in Photoshop or Final Cut, this machine will be fine for your tasks: note taking, web browsing, watching videos, light photo editing, and even light video editing. 

 

The Cons

 

As stated before, Apple is really throwing the future in our faces with this new Macbook. Their relentless pursuit of thinness and simplicity is almost detrimental to the overall success of this new laptop. 

USB-C is the only port offered. For ministers who want to travel and present with this machine, that creates a problem. Mac users are accustomed to traveling with adapters for VGA for connecting to projectors, but this lone port brings about a whole new set of problems. 

First, the one port is where you power the machine as well. Granted, Apple claims 10 hours of battery life and, according to reports, it gets that and more, but the *last* thing you need is your computer dying in the middle of a presentation. 

Second, the cost for adapters is high. I expect there will be plenty third-party adapters in the near future, but right now, Apple themselves can't even guarantee you one of theirs until June. 

The keyboard is the next problem, but it may not be an actual problem. I would describe the keyboard as frustrating and extraordinary at the same time. It will take some getting used to, for sure. Because of the thinness of the machine, Apple had to basically invent a new way for keys to be depressed. It's innovative, and it offers up a full-size keyboard, but the key travel is so short that it feels more like typing on the glass of an iPad screen rather than a Macbook. I think that after a couple of days of typing on it that I would get used to it, and even like it. But for those of us ministers who do a lot of typing, it may be problematic and frustrating. 


The Pros

 

Portability. This is the thinnest, lightest Macbook ever made, and probably the thinnest and lightest in the world. That means you can take it anywhere. If you've always struggled with an iPad trying to get what you need done, to type fast on it, or have great portability like an iPad, the Macbook is for you. It's basically an iPad with a keyboard attached to it, but it runs OSX. 

Design. Apple shines again with this design, pushing the limits of what is possible in portable computing. The new Macbook is also available in iPhone colors: gold, silver, and space gray. I personally find the space gray extremely attractive.

Force-Touch Trackpad. Also available on the new 13-inch Macbook Pro, the Force Touch Trackpad features Apple's patented Taptic Engine and makes you feel as though you're physically clicking, but you're not. Your mind will play tricks on you when you use this. It's a great feature and it's going to be wonderful to see what they can do with this in the future. 


So all in all, would I recommend this new Macbook if you're in the market for a new Mac right now? Sadly, no.

 

The one thing that holds this machine up for ministers is USB-C, and the lack of current support for the platform. Ministers will need to plug a variety of things into their laptops, and until the support for USB-C becomes more widespread, I can't recommend this machine at this time. If Apple had shipped this Macbook with just one other regular USB 3.0 port, that would have changed my mind. For me, and looking at what most ministers are going to use this machine for, that's a dealbreaker. You can get around the lack of processor speed with a speedy SSD and 8GB of RAM, but you can't overcome the frustrations of having to daisy-chain multiple adapters together just to connect to a projector, connect to power, and have a USB thumb drive running at the same time. 

In 2 years, however, as USB-C becomes a standard, I see this being the ultimate minister's computer. 

What do you think? Do you agree with my review? Sound off in the comments.

Ten Years with the Mac: My Most Valuable Tool in Ministry

My first Mac - a Mac mini desktop. 2005.

My first Mac - a Mac mini desktop. 2005.

People are always asking me: "why should I use a Mac?" I get calls from youth ministers, ministers, and church workers of all types about why they should go to a Mac. There's no really simple answer to this question.

10 years ago, I decided that I wanted to purchase a Mac. My first Mac computer of my own was a Mac Mini with a half a gig of RAM, which, in hindsight, wouldn't run anything today. I was able to get it used for about $450, got my own keyboard, mouse, and monitor and set out into the great undiscovered country. And I've never looked back.

There's no simple answer to why you should move to a Mac because there are many answers.

Apple's design is unmatched. Even hardcore Windows users will agree with that. The current aluminum designs have evolved over the last ten years to produce sleek and powerful computers. Yes, Apple may be obsessed with thinness, but can't argue that they have the best designed hardware in the biz.

It doesn't run Windows. When I left Windows a decade ago, XP was going on six years old. Microsoft was clearly riding the coattails and not innovating. I know some Windows users will scoff at my supposed shot over the bow, but the Microsoft ecosystem was seriously lacking in 2005. Office was confusing, XP was old. One of the biggest advantages for the Mac was that it didn't run Windows. When you control the hardware and the software on your machines, there's a lot you can do to maximize the experience. At this point 10 years ago, Apple was iterating and innovating on OSX, and I came in at OSX 10.3 Panther. That was seven versions ago. Safari was brand new. Wow.

In my humble opinion, OSX is far superior to Windows, even the new(ish) Windows 8. Although, I must admit that Windows is coming up again, not in market share, but in public opinion. Why is OSX superior in my mind? The sleekness. The speed. The stability. The only time OSX has crashed on me was when I did something I wasn't supposed to do on the machine.

The premium price tag is an illusion. You buy $9 shoes at Target and your feet are going to hurt. You get what you pay for. Same for computers. You may buy one Apple laptop for $1200, but how long will you keep that machine in the same time frame that you would have have two Windows machines? Or three?

Macs aren't as likely to get viruses. This isn't a myth, and this isn't something touted by Apple either. At the time of this writing, Windows holds a firm 85% market share in personal computers. That means that only 13-15% of the rest of the computers on the planet are Macs. So if you were writing a virus, which platform would you write for? The one who's odds are 8 out of 10 or 2 out of 10? Simple math will tell you that's why more viruses are on Windows.

High-quality software and apps. I haven't been on the Windows side of computing since I graduated from college, so I can't speak to the quality of Windows apps. But I can for Mac and iOS apps. The Mac App Store may not get the press that the iOS App Store does, but it has had as a huge an impact on how I work just as iOS has. Apps like TextExpander and 1Password, apps that I couldn't imagine working without, aren't available on Windows. Plus, where else are you going to find a Word Processor (Pages), a phenomenal PowerPoint replacement (Keynote), and a powerful spreadsheet app (Numbers) - all for FREE? These apps, along with GarageBand (audio editing) and iMovie (video editing that borders on professional-grade) are also made available for free.

Those are my answers for why I use a Mac. I'm not an Apple elitist, I just want to use the best tools for the job that I'm doing - and ministry is the most important job there is. Other than the Word of God itself and the people in the church, my Mac is the most important tool I use in my ministry to communicate, design, and move.

The Big Switch

All right, I've been hinting at this for a while, but I did it. I finally did it. I switched over to Android. 

Now, I'm not Android-exclusive by any means (I still have my iPad mini), and I'll never give up my precious Mac, but I've decided to go to Android for my daily driver smartphone. 

Some of you who know me being a hardcore Apple guy will (jokingly) call this a betrayal. You will call me a traitor to iOS. So this is to give you my primary reasons for switching. 

1) I just needed a change. I've been on iOS since before it was called iOS. I'm just bored. I needed a new experience. I love changing my tech and doing different things, and it seemed like things just hadn't changed all that much since I used the first iPhone back in 2007. It was nothing against iOS or Apple - I still love the OS and the company - I just wanted to have a different experience. And for that reason this was a very personal and not technical decision. Both Android and iOS are pretty equal now in quality. Some may argue that fact because they are biased either way, but the fact is that both operating systems are now on the same bar. They're neck and neck. One platform has advantages over the other, and vice versa. I tend to think that Android has the upper hand right now, but not by much. 

2) The variety of devices. Some Apple purists would argue that this is a major downside to Android, that device fragmentation would dilute the experience, but Google has done a good job the past year of reeling in manufacturers like Samsung, HTC and the like to make Android on these devices with much less "skinning" and bloatware. I'll have a more in-depth review later, but the reason I chose the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, among other reasons, was that TouchWiz (Samsung's take on "skinning" Android) is much much better than when I used it on a Galaxy S3 two years ago and tons better than when I used it on the first Galaxy Tab three years ago. If I wanted a pure Google experience, I could have went with a Nexus device. My options were limited with Verizon though, and the more I looked at the Note the better I liked it. 

3) The size. Android devices come in a variety of sizes now and I can get something even bigger that Apple's 4.7- and 5.5-inch variations. I personally wanted to get as close to a tablet as I could without going over the 6-inch mark. I wanted to replace my tablet and my phone with a big phone, and the Galaxy Note 4 lets me do that. It's big enough to preach and teach from but yet not too big to carry around. 

4) Customization. This to me is huge. iOS never really allowed you to customize anything before iOS 8, and even with that it's still limited. I can change my keyboard, my lock screen, add widgets, place my icons anywhere on the screen I want them, change my pictures viewer, change my default camera, and many many more things. I am a true geek and customizing the phone to my liking is wonderful. One of the big things is being able to choose and change your own Launcher. This is a foreign concept to anyone who has never used an Android device, but basically you can change the whole look and feel by downloading a new Launcher for your device. Want a Nexus feel to your Samsung TouchWiz phone? Download the Google Now Launcher. Want a completely different "looks-like-the-movies" look? Download my personal favorite: Atom Launcher. These Launchers don't mess up your whole phone either - Settings and apps still look the same, just the look and feel of your home screen and app drawers. It's really fantastic. 

5) Google's new apps and designs. I got an Android device just in time for great material design updates to apps like Gmail, Inbox, Keep, Messenger, and Calendar, among others. All these apps are fantastic and simply redesigned to get the most done in the least amount of time, which is exactly what I need. The new material design adapted for Android 5.0 Lollipop is what Steve Jobs would have called "lickable," to say the least. It is a very flat design aesthetic, but I look at it and it seems more functional than the flattening and translucency of the iOS 7 redesign a year ago. Animations are quick and subtle. The UI is bright and colorful but not offendingly so. Buttons and interactivity is easy to figure out. 

6) Expansion. One of the reasons I chose to go with Samsung was the ability to expand my space. I now have a 32GB phone with a 64GB micro SD card at the back. I also have access to that card and can switch it out any time I want. When shooting 4K video with this thing (which it does beautifully) you average about 200MB for just 30 seconds of video, so if intend to shoot any of that UHD video, I'll need extra storage. Android lets you change you camera settings at will though - I can record 720P regular 'ol HD, or I can go crazy with 4K UHD. I also have four options to shoot stills: 16, 12, 8, and 6 megapixels respectively. I can switch many apps to store my photos, videos, games and other files on my SD card instead of my device. And with Android File Transfer for Mac, I can upload things like ripped movies directly onto my device, much like you would just drag and drop to an external hard drive. 

I've probably stepped over my own toes by partially reviewing the Note 4 already, but look for a full review in the next week, where I intend to count in all the advantages and disadvantages of using an Android device exclusively now. 

I'm not 100% sure I'll stick with it for the long term (1 year or longer), but I will stick with it for now. If you're due for an upgrade and have been looking hard at some Android devices, the lines between Apple and Android are way more blurry now. Do your homework and figure out what device is best for you, regardless of what your friends might tell you. 

Preaching from a 5.5-inch iPhone

The supposed 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 to be announced next week. Source

If the overwhelming rumors hold true, Apple will announce not one, but two new iPhones next week at their special event in California: an newly-designed iPhone 6, one with a 4.7-inch display and one with a 5.5-inch display.

If you take a ruler to your current iPhone, it's just 4 inches diagonally. Now expand that out to 4.7 and 5.5 inches. You'll see that the 5.5-inch phone is much bigger. You get a whole lot more screen real estate with 5.5 inches.

Which brings up an interesting question - if you use an iPad mini to preach from, would you consider using a 5.5-inch iPhone to do the same thing?

I would. And I'm planning to. And here's why.

1) One device, not two. Right now I have the trifecta - the iPhone, iPad mini and my Macbook Pro. But I would love to trim that down to just two devices - my iPhone and Macbook. I use the three devices I have now for very different things. I use the phone for taking pictures, checking Twitter, taking down quick notes, and oh - texting and talking on the phone. I use the iPad mini to preach from, and I've found myself not using the iPad mini as much as I've wanted to. I surf the web and read a lot on my laptop versus my iPad. I write and watch videos on my laptop. I'm not much of a digital reader so I don't use the iPad for that (plus I do most of my reading right before bed, and they say that looking at screens before bed leads to sleep problems).

2) It won't be a 'blown-up' iPhone. Apple wouldn't do that (or at least I hope they wouldn't). They didn't just blow up iOS to fit on an iPad, they made a different interface for it. The 5.5-inch iPhone, whether it comes out 10 days after the announcement or not until 2015, will have a different kind of OS. In my opinion, it will still run on iOS of course, but it will be some kind of hybrid between iPad and iPhone views. Don't ask me to explain all of that, I just think that's what Apple will do with it.

3) The resolution will be crazy high. And that will lead to great looking text - at any size. Whether you're looking at Evernote, Simplenote, or a PDF in Goodreader, it's going to look fantastic. Text will be able to be resized to whatever you want it to be.

Are there trade-offs to a huge iPhone? Why sure. For one, you look wacky with the thing on your ear talking on the phone. Like holding small Bible to your head. Another thing would be how portable it is - will it fit in your pocket?

But to me, having one device that has everything I need and is big enough so that I can preach and teach from it will be invaluable to me.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments.

The Golden Age of Podcasting [Video]

Since my friend Adam Faughn started his Legacy of Faith podcast a week or two ago, it's really brought to my attention two things: 1) There's never been a better time to become a podcast listener, and 2) there's never been a better time to start your own. 

Podcasts have actually been around for over a decade, getting their name from some of Apple's first iPods back in 2001-02. But I think we may be ushering in the golden age of podcasting, both in listening and producing. 

If you've never listened to any podcasts, it's a perfect time to start. There's some great apps (both paid and free) for iPhone and Android to get you listening today. Podcasts are great for commutes - I don't have a commute but I do take long trips and they help pass the time very well. 

The best part is that podcasts are free. All of them. Some apps to manage them can range up to five or ten dollars, but that's a small price to pay for great organization and access to content. 

And podcasts have a incredible wide variety of content. You can listen to shows about Christianity, Science, Mathematics, Star Trek, Technology, Cooking - anything you can imagine and there's probably a podcast for it. And some podcasts aren't shows at all - they're merely recordings of sermons or speeches that have a serialized format. Here at Church Street, for instance, we don't stream our sermons live but they are available in audio form or on our podcast feed

The best and easiest way to get your feet wet in podcasts is to download the free Podcasts app for iOS. You can discover and find a few podcasts to listen to and search them via the iTunes Podcast Directory

And if you want to give your hand a try at actually podcasting yourself, all you need is microphone, an audio editing program (Audacity is free and great), and an iTunes Podcast RSS feed (instructions) and you're good to go. 

So whether it's listening or producing your own, there has never been a better time to step into the podcasting world. There's a whole wealth of knowledge out there for you to discover. 

If you're curious as to some of the many podcasts and networks I listen to, check out my Favorite Things page and look under Podcasts. My long-standing favorite app is Instacast, but I've recently switched to the excellent Overcast on my iPhone. 

Below is an excellent video rundown on some of the most popular podcast-catching apps to discover, download, and listen to new podcasts. After the video go check out Robert McGinley Myer's site Anxious Machine